He should have known—poor Boi—by the way she watched him as he made his way back to the spot she had stopped, that something worse would follow. Hell hath no fury than pregnant Atswei, who has possibly just missed her final chance at making Akete in time for the baby.
And then, as if she hadn’t seen with her own eyes that they had missed the train, he sighs, “we missed the train”. She remains silent. He pushes his luck further, stretching out a gentle hand to touch her shoulder. “Are you alri…”
“Don’t touch me! Don’t you dare touch me!” she barks!
“What has come over you?” he inquires, shaken.
“You have. You have come all over me!” she retorts in the same heightened tone, before grabbing a suitcase and making for the direction which leads back home.
Boi manages to stop her with a stern voice. Then, she goes into a long rapid rant blaming him for what just happened. The outburst is so overwhelming that it causes him to stutter his next sentences.
“That train was for us Boi, and now we missed it”
It is important to separate these words from everything else she says in the first scene of Peter Sedufia’s recent film Ketete, for you can hear the lump in her voice as she speaks them. They’re sober and defeated, and summarise a powerfully sad opening scene.
It is 80s Ghana, and the rail system is the one vehicle from the outskirts. That is why them missing this train is a bad thing. It casts the most vehement shadow on whether or not she would achieve her desire of having her child in Akete.
I think Atswei, and my Aku, present similar temperaments –except Atswei (played by Lydia Forson), is expecting, whereas my Aku is merely thinking about it.
But they’re both insufferable. Like Atswei, my Aku complains constantly (in that rapid piercing voice which I hear even in my sleep), is easily underwhelmed at me, and is mischievous in ways usually unheard of about women.
Because Atswei is expecting, and has just missed a very important train, her behaviour may be excused. It is expected of expecting mothers to have this many expectations, and to cause significant neck and back pain in her partner with everlasting mood swings. I’ll get back to you when I have answers regarding my Aku. Also, I should just go ahead and delete some of the above paragraphs if I look forward to a civil conversation tonight.
Actually, wait! All women, pregnant or not, are insufferable if you really think about it…just in varying degrees and different times.
“You’re evil,” husband Boi (Adjetey Anang) cries during an early scene. He has just been served agonising payback. Minutes ago, when Atswei (sitting two feet away on a rail line) flings a stone at his eye…too painful to be playful, she inquires, smiling: “is it hurting?” Unbelievable!
Immediately, a great idea drops into his afro. He feigns amnesia, and begins to ask disturbing questions: “who are you?”, “where am I?” These words are frightening any day, more so in the middle of nowhere, and with nobody else around. He laughs after those ten strange seconds, and she’s both annoyed and relieved.
But as Boi (who is himself a tad insufferable too) finds out swiftly, you should never undermine an angry pregnant woman. Never! An idea, greater than his, drops into her bulging womb. She begins to slap her right thigh. The veins on Boi’s face contort into a bovine expression. She looks like she’s genuinely reeling from the pain which announces labour. Of all the things one could request in a time like this, her appetite leans towards coconut water. Coconut water! Where can he get coconut water in a place like this? He directs that question to her. She doesn’t even seem to hear him, and continues her act. Ten seconds after, she too lets out a hearty laugh, punctuated with the words “draw draw!” These words can pain! It is then that he blurts out those strong words. Atswei is not perturbed. “Eeeeh. That’s why you married me”, she simply responds, satisfied at the effectiveness of her performance.
It is what happens for most of Keteke. Endless quarrelling between lovers, about each other’s mother-in-law, or the gender of their unborn baby, or whose making the baby was in the first place, or whether to partake of a scrumptious table prepared them by a witch doctor they encounter at a point. Everything.
What therefore, is the language of love, for it is not this! Accusing a partner’s mother of being a witch among other grave invectives is definitely not something you would say to someone you have committed to adore for the rest of your life.
There are only one or two occasions where they speak to each other in the tender dialogue that we expect of lovers –one being when Atswei stares death in the face. Stretched out on the tracks, she lets out strained breaths in a fight for her life. They clarify their true sentiments, in plain words at last, before she closes her eyes and, kneeling over her, he yells into the skies.
Keteke is a very important film because it exposes the not too pretty aspects of a relationship. A marriage is never entirely rosy, and no matter how many times we say it, it is important to also display it in art, so prospective partners especially, would know that it’s okay to not smile at each other sometimes –that long fights are a love language too, and that the biggest test of a person’s character could be their soul mate too.
A truly moving period piece, Sedufia manipulates expertly, and with godly audacity, many many emotions in the viewer’s eyes and bosom. He explores primarily, the passé theme of love, but through a perspective that is fresh. Interesting that he has to revert to the 80s to execute this. This is the ultimate test of the wedding day promises: when all is lost, and you only have a spouse for sanity, and a rail line as compass, will they suffice? Will love survive?
Also dominant in the film are the ideas of sacrifice and tolerance. What lengths shall a man go to prove his affection? Catch a grenade? Jump in front of a bullet? Swim across seven oceans? I’d say, surviving through a pregnant woman’s many erratic moods in the wild is right up there with these gestures.
In many cases, a baby is the crowning moment of a love story. Somehow though, it appears to be bad luck for Boi and Atswei. Indeed, it is the reason for several of their tiffs on the journey.
Keteke (also starring Fred Amugi, Adjetey Anang, Joseph Otsiman, Clement Suarez, Raymond Sarfo, as well as General Ntatia), is one of the most successful motion pictures the year has so far produced. It generated unprecedented activity on social media, and obviously translated unto the day of its release. Images from the March 4 premiere show several scores of patrons lining up to watch it. Producers say over a thousand people showed up for the premiere, and they had to turn many away due to oversubscription.
It has proven to be a remarkable filmmaking debut by Sedufia, and automatically takes him to the first rank of emerging directors from these parts. He has grasped an unpretentious way of telling our stories. That is extraordinary, and welcome.
One can only have good expectations for the film, considering the quality which went into its making: a straightforward story which also delicately reveals many astounding complexities.
In the end (and on a very serious note), know this: your woman is always right! It’s just the way these things work: Nana Addo is president, Jollof cures terminal cancer, and your woman is right, every time. She may be insufferable, and cynical, and mildly sadistic, but she’s right, eventually –ask Boi about the witchdoctor who offered them a lavish feast and kept calling Atswei “my lady.”